Trying to list mythological creatures across the world is a tough job, but some are so strange, it’s no surprise it’s made this month’s list! So for April’s creature feature, we are going to explore the freaky Yokai, a class of monsters, and more specifically, futakuchi-onna.
WHAT IS IT?
Yokai is a class of either a spirit or monster that comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with the purpose of being mischievous or malevolent. It’s even said they can bring good fortune as well on some accounts. The creatures can either look human or have animal features or even just appear as objects, which makes identifying them somewhat difficult as it’s a class of creature. Depending on which folklore you read, you may find yourself in serious danger in this class. For this purpose, we are going to focus on futakuchi-onna. This monster has two mouths, the first in the front (like a normal human has) and one in the back in the hair. When eating, the back mouth opens, splitting the skull open. The name itself means ‘two-mouthed woman’. This affliction of having a spare mouth (with teeth) are for women who are cursed, most likely from evil deeds.
Yokai creatures come from Japanese folklore and futakuchi-onna has been linked to females who eat very little and happens most often to married women, rather than single ones. The origin of the tale seems to be families experiencing their food supply decrease, yet the wife barely eats, forcing the family to investigate. The result is finding the second mouth, which was created because the wife refused to eat enough to sustain herself, the second mouth eating twice as much, using the hair-like arms to shovel down more food. However, this is only one telling of the creature. Other versions discuss just a husband spying on his wife after supply decreases and tries to divorce her, only to have himself kidnapped by the monster, though he escapes. Half the fun is the creature’s own bizarreness and, thankfully, there are plenty of illustrations of the futakuchi-onna.
One word: Pokėmon. The Pokėmon creature Mawile couldn’t be more of futakuchi-onna if it tried. Literally a light yellow skinned body and from the front what looks like dark hair but really is large jaws with a mouth in the back of it’s head.
The creature has also shown up in games like The Secret World, Ragnarok Online and The Last Blade, countless anime and manga’s (Gantz), a feature done in the TV show Masters of Horror among other shows.
There are a lot of ideas for the futakuchi-onna such as making the creature itself more sinister than the tale. Two mouths can mean the back mouth eats the souls of it’s victims! Also, a futakuchi-onna is primarily known in Japan, not so much in America, so there’s a real opportunity to showcase it more here, especially in fiction. I couldn’t find a whole lot involving this specific creature so have at it!